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A Postcard from Australia

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

A Postcard from Australia

We miss Johanna Vondeling, our ex-Editorial VP (now VP for Business Development), greatly and we're so very curious about her new life down under, and we know others in our community are, too. So she decided to write and tell us:

Dear BK Community,

Greetings from Australia! I’m happy to report that all is well in the most remote large city on the planet. Perth is a pretty, hospitable city, with beautiful beaches and plenty of riverside parks and walking trails. We’ve been enjoying exploring the local bush, where we’ve spotted kangaroos, bobtails and plenty of loud, exotic birds. The eerie, Mars-like landscape of the Pinnacles took our breath away, and the color contrasts in the former pearling town of Broome are stunning. Hopefully, we’ll find an opportunity to complete this gorgeous 135 kilometer Cape-to-Cape trek while we’re here.

Our senior dog, Jude, survived an unhappy month in quarantine and is now living a life of leisure, though the dive-bombing Willie Wagtails here pester him on walks. Things I’ve learned the hard way: u-turns are illegal, and using a cordless phone brought from the US will both disrupt the local cell phone network and draw the attention of the authorities. 30 SPF is the absolute minimum level of adequate sunscreen, even in Winter; the “slip, slop, slap” mantra is widely -- and wisely -- heeded. I have yet to try Vegemite, and I’m still recovering from sugar shock brought on by my single encounter with a Tim-tam . Grilled kangaroo, however, is quite tasty, as is the Pipsqueak Cider produced by local microbrewery Little Creatures .

I’ve been delighted to find that the publishing community in Australia rivals America’s in overall friendliness. Many booksellers and publishers have generously and patiently answered my questions about the marketplace here, which is facing its share of challenges. While the Australian economy overall is currently much healthier than the US’s, industry revenue is nonetheless estimated to be down 5-10% for the year . To the consternation of local booksellers, many customers are turning to overseas online retailers , while others are simply purchasing fewer books. Cookbooks, children’s books, and coffee table books are uniquely recession-proof. The boom in digital publishing has yet to sweep Australia (e-book sales were recently estimated to be around 1% of total book sales), but many are excited that Kobo and the iBookstore both launched here earlier this year.

Perth itself has a lively scene of independent booksellers, such as Boffins , Bookcaff ƒ © , and Planet Books . Each store hosts creative events that make the shop a destination site for the local community, and the foot-traffic is impressive. Karen Kotze, owner of the Bodhi Tree , is cultivating a community very much aligned with Berrett-Koehler’s mission; her book caf ƒ © serves authors and customers by “promoting conscious development in all areas of life -- at work, at home and at play and through inspiring and cultivating wisdom that draws on both western and eastern philosophies.” We’re excited to be exploring ways Bodhi’s author community can hold hands across the pond with the Berrett-Koehler Authors Cooperative.

All in all, a great adventure so far! Please feel free to connect with me through social networks, including www.bkcommunity.com, for more updates and news. In the meantime, here are some photos from our life down under, and an authentic recording of those really loud birds known as Kukaburras.

Johanna Vondeling

Vice President, Business Development

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